Most competitive Tech Skills Rodeo yet

More winners, more prizes—meet some of the industry's finest truck techs from the largest commercial vehicle dealer chain in the U.S.

SAN ANTONIO. It's the baker's dozen for the Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo, which for the 13th time announced its winners including all-around grand champion Steven Brain of Rush Truck Center-Dallas. From an event first held in Nashville, TN with just two rows of bleachers for the awards ceremony audience, it has since grown in attendance about 20 times over.

It's become almost a pilgrimage every December for Rush's top technicians to its corporate headquarters city of San Antonio, which delivers its fairer weather and standout River Walk holiday and dining/ shopping experience for contestants and their significant others who come. But the Rush techs especially had to earn it this year, and the event is expanding to include other employees.

"This year we had record-breaking participation," noted Jody Pollard, senior vice president of dealership operations at Rush Enterprises. "We had 1,800 people enter to compete." Rush Truck Centers employs just short of 2,500 service and body technicians at more than 110 locations across the country.

Of those who tried out, 232 finalists made it here for their chance at $285,000 in prizes and cash. Some were returning winners or past competitors, but the Rodeo this year featured around two dozen first-timers. And with record participation, some top-level techs who've won here in the past—including a grand champion from last year—didn't make it back, often by razor-thin test margins.  

"The experience of the Tech Skills Rodeo isn't a given—it is completely competitive every single year," Pollard noted.

"I know some of these guys. They're past winners," said Rush Enterprises President, CEO, and Chairman W.M. "Rusty" Rush at the awards ceremony. "The good part is I went around the room, and I saw a lot of new faces tonight."

This was not only the most competitive of these events to date, it was especially emotional because of the passing of W. Marvin Rush, Rusty's father and the founder of Rush Enterprises, earlier this year in May. A tribute to the elder Rush played before the winners were announced.

W. Marvin Rush tribute at 2018 Rush Teck Skills Rodeo

Though he's been a division winner before, this is the first Rodeo all-around grand championship for Rush's Steven Brain, a tech with the company now nearly a decade who said the work "comes very natural" to him and is "a God-given gift." It was also his earthly father who helped steer Brain down this road: "I can remember sitting under the car when I was a child helping my dad work on the car," he said.

Testing on a Hino truck, Brain noted it came down to the wire—he found the truck's last bug as the final 30 seconds of his 45-minute heat ticked down. He said he'd like to get into mentoring other technicians, something he encouraged Rush Truck Centers to focus on more.

Winners of the 2018 Rush Tech Skills Rodeo all together with Rush Enterprises President and CEO Rusty Rush (front row, seventh from left) and NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer (front row, eighth from left)

This year's winners (in order of slideshow appearance) were:  

PARTS

Ford: Thomas Ell, Rush Truck Center-Orlando, FL
Hino: Eric Hauser, Rush Truck Center-Fontana, CA
Isuzu: Matthew Turpin, Rush Truck Center-Smyrna, GA
International: Quintin Likely, Rush Truck Center-Columbus, GA
Paccar: Rick Welch, Rush Truck Center-Lubbock, TX 

RISING STAR

3rd place: Austin Hale, Rush Truck Center-Tulsa, OK
2nd place: Jaden Lucero, Rush Truck Center-Phoenix
1st place: Mike Vochatzer, Rush Truck Center-Haines City, FL 

BODY REPAIR

2nd place: Luis Gonzalez, Rush Truck Center-Dallas
1st place: Larry Edwards, Rush Truck Center-Richmond, VA 

BODY PAINT

2nd place: Jose Torres, Rush Truck Center-Houston
1st place: Christopher Hooks, Rush Truck Center-Lufkin, TX

MEDIUM DUTY 

Allison Transmission
2nd place: Byron Holmes, Rush Truck Center-Champaign, IL
1st place: Daniel Amos, Rush Truck Center-Phoenix 

Bus
2nd place: Jason Summers, Rush Truck Center-Flagstaff, AZ
1st place: Joseph Behrend, Rush Truck Center-Idaho Falls, ID 

Hino
2nd place: Billy Stanley, Rush Truck Center-Houston
1st place: Steven Brain, Rush Truck Center-Dallas 

Isuzu
2nd place: Brennen Commons, Rush Truck Center-Dallas
1st place: Rick Nonamaker, Rush Truck Center-Waco, TX 

International
2nd place: Dustin Stephens, Rush Truck Center-St. Louis
1st place: Justin Euler, Rush Truck Center-St. Peters, MO 

Peterbilt
2nd place: Johnny Mendez, Rush Truck Center-San Antonio
1st place: Brian Smith, Rush Truck Center-Austin, TX

HEAVY DUTY

Vocational
2nd place: Travis Webster, Rush Truck Center-Houston
1st place: Jeremy Stevens, Rush Truck Center-Jacksonville, FL

Alternative Fuels
2nd place: William Bodin, Rush Truck Center-San Antonio
1st place: Will Young, Rush Truck Center-Oklahoma City 

Cummins
3rd place: Nicholas Misch, Rush Truck Center-San Antonio
2nd place: Matthew Thomas, Rush Truck Center-College Station, Bryan, TX
1st place: Jay Seibech, Rush Truck Center-Dallas 

Eaton
3rd place: Robert LaValley, Rush Truck Center-Flagstaff, AZ
2nd place: Paul Serr, Rush Truck Center-Denver
1st place: Jason Swann, Rush Truck Center-Dallas 

Navistar Engine
3rd place: Brandon Sloan, Rush Truck Center-Salt Lake City
2nd place: Andy Shonauer, Rush Truck Center-Indianapolis
1st place: Curtis Lihan, Rush Truck Center-Asheville, NC

Paccar MX
3rd place: Bradley Biesecker, Rush Truck Center-Abilene, TX
2nd place: Mark Craver, Rush Truck Center-Mobile, AL
1st place: Glenn Boothe, Rush Truck Center-Nashville, TN 

TRUCK SALES

Ford: Eric Juengling, Rush Truck Center-Cincinnati
Hino: Brad Munchrath, Rush Truck Center-Dallas
Isuzu: Donald McHenry, Rush Truck Center-Dallas
International Medium Duty: Thomas Ritter, Rush Truck Center-Indianapolis
International Heavy Duty: Matt Garr, Rush Truck Center-Huntley, IL
Peterbilt Medium Duty: Brad Jones, Rush Crane Systems
Peterbilt Heavy Duty: Kyle Smith, Rush Truck Center-Fort Worth, TX 

RESERVE CHAMPIONS

Aftermarket Sales: Gary Gates, Rush Truck Center-Houston
Parts: Eric Hauser, Rush Truck Center-Fontana, CA
Medium Duty: Johnny Mendez, Rush Truck Center-San Antonio
Heavy Duty: Nicholas Misch, Rush Truck Center-San Antonio

GRAND CHAMPIONS

Aftermarket Sales: Michael Box, Rush Truck Center-Lubbock, TX
Parts: Quintin Likely, Rush Truck Center-Columbus, GA
Medium Duty: Steven Brain, Rush Truck Center-Dallas
Heavy Duty: Jason Swann, Rush Truck Center-Dallas

ALL-AROUND TECH SKILLS RODEO GRAND CHAMPION
Steven Brain, Rush Truck Center-Dallas

 

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